Into The Forest Opens This Friday

Into The Forest,  the long-awaited collaborative polymer installation spearheaded by Laura Tabakman,  Julie Eakes and Philadelphia’s own Emily Squires Levine opens this Friday at the Spinning Plate Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA. 

I can scarcely believe that it’s been more than a year since Laura announced the project at Eurosynergy  and requested contributions from the polymer  community.  They responded with enthusiasm: polymer artists from 27 countries around the world and 37 States around the US sent  an abundance of hand-fabricated floral and faunal elements inspired by their geographically-diverse environments.  Into The Forest is more than an art installation; it is a celebration of diversity and unity. A virtual global forest.

A small version of Into The Forest had its first public showing in Philadelphia as part of a larger “Constructing Organics” show which ran at the Park Town Place Gallery from September 2 to December 30, 2016.    Emily, Laura and Julie have spent  this past year working to make Into the Forest come to life in Pittsburgh.

Here are  pictures of contributions from the Philadelphia polymer community that we made under Emily’s instruction at a meeting of the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild.   

 

 

See you in Pittsburgh!

The New Clay: An Afternoon with Nan Roche

Who remembers discovering polymer for the first time and maybe running out and scoring a copy of  The New Clay?     The Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild was lucky enough to have The New Clay author and polymer innovator Nan Roche at a recent meeting where she recalled her introduction to polymer and how she came to write a classic work on polymer techniques and art.

 

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In the 1980’s Nan  was a hand weaver and had a studio at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA.     Someone, Nan didn’t recall who, came back from New York city with with a fascinating necklace from the Julie: Artisan Gallery in Manhattan.   The necklace made from an material that no one could identify until a ceramic artist named Kathleen Dustin, who also had a studio at the Torpedo Factory, recognized the material as Fimo.  Dustin remembered Fimo from when she had lived abroad and said that it was marketed to children as an art material.  But the necklace was no toy; it was extraordinary. People wanted to know about the material it was made from.   Information on products like Fimo was hard to get in the days before the Internet, but Dustin did some research and was able to find a US supplier for a similar material called Sculpey.  (Fimo was not sold in the US at this time) She ordered some and started to experiment with it using a millefiore caning technique familiar to glass artists.

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People saw Dustin’s work and wanted learn how to use this new art medium.  So, Dustin scheduled a class at the Torpedo Factory and 60 people showed up to take it.  One of them was Nan Roche who described the excitement in the class like  buzz on the floor of Filene’s Basement on a Saturday Morning.

Nan would later recall the class  in the foreward she wrote to  Sarajane Helm’s Create a Polymer Clay Impression,

“As I was being shown how to make my own millefiore designs by Kathleen Dustin, in a fateful class at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, the connections were exploding in my head.  I don’t think I slept for several days after that class.  I was so excited!”

The interesting thing about this was at the time, different people  around the country were discovering  polymer and working with it independently.  You can read an excellent account this  in Kathleen Dustin’s articles on  the Polymer Art Archive.

“I went to work at my dining room table  and thank God my area rug didn’t get too damaged, Nan recalled,  “I was so excited that I would wake up my husband to show him what I’d made.”

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So I would bring in things that I had worked on in my dining room and people would say, “My God I wanna learn it!” I started teaching classes in my dining room.” Textile artist Helene Bress took a workshop.    Her husband Seymour was just in the process of starting a publishing business  and asked me to write the book. ”  Nan said she resisted initially because she had a full time job and was raising a family, but then  decided  she was ready to leave the world of textile art and weaving behind.  After she agreed to write the book, she spent the next year and a half working  all day, coming home and writing all night.  She  wrote  the kind of book that that she would like to read,  and that’s why  The New Clay explains what polymer is  in such detail and then and then outlines the myriad ways of using it.  Before The New Clay was published,  there were no other materials in English on polymer clay.

And so, The New Clay was born.  You already know the rest of the story.

Here are some other pictures from the meeting.

 

 

Melanie West Naturally!

Melanie West skidded into town from Maine last week  to teach a class for the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild.

wpid-wp-1416257389115.jpegMelanie looks amused  as she shows how to use Ultra Soft Sculpey to make big forms, which are baked, carved,  laminated with canes, trimmed, baked, carved, sanded- it’s a labor intensive process and definitely not for the “make-n-take” crowd.

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But here is the result of Melanie’s  labor- her bangles are light, sturdy, colorful and as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

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Here is Melanie wearing one of her big bead necklaces while Ellen Marshall is deciding which of Melanie’s pieces to add to her own collection.  (Hint: See the first picture).

And here are my efforts to take Melanie’s process and add my twist to it.    While I like the basic shapes, the lamination experiments are  not so good.

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But I am interested in pursuing the carving aspect and seeing where I can take it.

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If you would like to see some prime examples of Melanie’s work that include her recent foray into vessels, go to her website here.

Darleen Bellan’s Unique Ornaments and Mementos

I met Darleen Bellan this summer at Clay ConneCTion, the semi-annual retreat of the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild and  fell in love with her quirky and inspired polymer clay figurines and ornaments. When she agreed to do an interview with fellow sculptor Sherman Oberson for the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild’s YouTube Channel, I grabbed my equipment, met them in a quiet hallway and we did the interview on the spot.

Darleen’s an animal lover and her ornaments are lots of fun (Chicken ala King anyone?) But Darleen doesn’t restrict herself to ornaments and figurines; she crafts made-to-order pieces memorializing  departed pets and gives each one a unique twist  that gives it  personal meaning.  So what’s the unique twist?   Go to the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild’s Blog and watch  the video to  find out.

Most of Darleen’s  work is  one of a kind and she welcomes commissions.  If you are interested in buying or commissioning her work, go to her web site or her etsy shop.    Here are some pictures.

Sherman also has some great ornaments for sale in his etsy shop.  His style is different from Darleen’s but

his work is charming and will make you laugh.

Here’s one I bought

and here are some more!

Support Our Artists!

New Work from Arlene Groch

Earlier this summer I got to spend some time in Arlene Groch’s spanking new studio which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s what she’s been up to.

Arlene really took to screen printing on polymer clay, but she didn’t restrict her work to pieces with an Asian flavor.  She tried screen printing on practically everything except her Grandchildren, often with stunning results.

And no one ever accused Arlene of being afraid of color.  Her pieces are big, bold and colorful.

Recently, Arlene has gotten into caning.    Well, I suppose a workshop with Bonnie Bishoff and Melanie West   and hanging around fellow PAPCG member and caner extraordinaire  Emily Squires Levine is bound to rub off.   It will be interesting to see where Arlene goes from here.

This just in!

Catch Arlene at the Wheaton Fine Arts Festival

The Big Reveal Revisited

The August 11 reveal date  for  group 2 of Lori Anderson’s  6th Bead Soup Blog Party has passed.  I was blown away by all of the outstanding work I saw as I hopped from blog to blog.  Lori put together the map below to show where  all 400 blog party participants live.  There are  more detailed breakdowns on her blog.

Look at what  my partner Kristen Latimer  made with the beads I sent to her

MJM Jewelry Designs

I don’t think my beads and clasp were the easiest to work with.   Kristen’s jewelry seems more delicate than a lot of  mine and the clasp I sent  was pretty big.  And I could never figure out what to do with those minty vintage curved bugle beads.   Kristen found a way to integrate her crystals and smaller beads  with mine and  made a a very attractive set of earrings and a bracelet that anyone would be pleased to wear.

On another topic, the Philadelphia Polymer Clay Guild (of which I am a member) has started a YouTube channel and we intend to fill it with playlists of high quality tutorials with videos we make ourselves.

So, here is the interview with Jana Roberts Benzon.

And finally, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.  That’s right: It’s Beadfest Philadelphia time.  Don’t miss it.

Cynthia Toops Came to Philadelphia

to teach a polymer clay class to the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild. I was fortunate enough to take the class in micro mosaics and other techniques.  What I learned is that you don’t have to be able to cane The Last Supper to be a great polymer clay artist. Cynthia Toops makes simple components, but she assembles them with virtuosity and imagination.  And superb craftsmanship.

And she works simply.  I took a lampworking class with her husband, Dan Adams, a few years ago.  He told us that for the first several years, her only tools were a drinking glass and a single-edged razor blade.   Her class materials list was short, but the instruction was intense and personal.  I came away with some mediocre work and the realization that I had a long way to go.  But I had fun and I am already thinking how to integrate the techniques I learned into my own work.

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I fooled around with some techniques in these little pins and then I poured clear resin over the elements, leaving some of them poking out.

To see pictures from the class, go to the Philadelphia Area Guild’s blog.  Cynthia Tinapple took the class too,  and put up some images on Polymer Clay Daily.  To see a video with Cynthia Toops explaining her work, press here.

 

More Collage Jewelry

I am doing a demonstration on making collage jewelry for the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild this Sunday.  You can have a lot of fun making little assemblages, pendants, and memory pieces.  Press here for some how-to information and tool suggestions, and here for books I have found to be helpful and inspiring.

Clayathon 2011

Clayathon is organized by the wonderful and talented Arlene Groch and her talented team of South Jersey Poly Addicts, (which is not the same thing as having a dual diagnosis, although Arlene does confess to having an “out of control” polymer clay addiction.) There is something so poetically just about a woman who gave up her law practice for polymer clay and invited friends to come and use her conference room, not for depositions and settlement conferences, but as a polymer clay studio.

If my Meniere’s disease, which has been acting up this week, does not have me Jackson Pollocking the carpet, I will be there along with the rest of my friends. Actually, Clayathon is a great stress reliever so I’ll have my doctor write a prescription.

Here are some pictures from past Clayathons.




What I made in Olivia Surratt’s Class


I first met Olivia Surratt at a two-day workshop the  Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild sponsored with Robert Dancik.  For some reason, I liked Olivia right from the start.  I don’t know why; sometimes that’s the way it goes.  So when Olivia offered to teach a wire and fusing class to benefit the guild, I jumped at the chance to take it, even though wire working is not new to me.  Not only has Olivia studied with some great teachers, no matter what you think you know, you can always learn something new or a better way to do something from a good teacher.  Olivia did not disappoint me.

One of the first things I did was to replace my portable butane torch with the model Olivia likes best, the original Blazer GB 2001 Self Igniting Micro Blazer Torch. It actually costs less than the torch I already have, but works so much better.

Olivia  and Pauline, her trusty assistant, led us through her methods for fusing fine solver and  wrapping with copper wire.  I used beads I made. Here are some pictures.  I give the class an A plus!

It’s Mural Arts Month in Philadelphia.  Go out and kiss a mural!!!

For earlier posts on Philadelphia Murals,  press here and here.